Dylan Armstrong and Gary Reed were competing at the 2000 Olympic track and field trials in Victoria when they found themselves out of money and with no ride home.
So the thrower and runner, best friends since they were young boys, hitchhiked, thumbing rides 400 kilometres up the Coquihalla Highway to Kamloops, B.C. It was misadventure they laugh about now, and one they say truly tested how much they would put up with to be world-class athletes.
A lot, apparently.
"It was crazy. We both were ranked No. 1 in the country as juniors, both national champions and just had nothing, we literally had no money. No credit card. Nothing," said Reed. "Can you believe that? It's just mind-blowing.
"It was not cool, at the time it was pretty daunting, it was kind of a negative experience. But it was one of those things, you just do what you do. We have lots of stories."
While Reed has retired from track, Armstrong, ranked No. 1 in the world last season, will be Canada's best hope for a medal in track and field at the London Olympics.
The six-foot-four, 345-pound mountain of a man hasn't lost his sense of appreciation for just how far he's come.
"We just did whatever it took. We loved it that much," the 31-year-old said. "Lose a little to gain a little. We had nothing to lose."
The two grew up training in what Armstrong remembers as a "rat-infested, mice-infected" army bunker in Kamloops. They sold bags of manure as part of the Kamloops Track and Field Club's annual fundraiser. Reed, the Canadian record-holder in the 800 metres, once hawked his stereo system to pay for a training camp.
"Those years were tough but in one regard I think it made us who we are as athletes," said Reed, who's now a realtor in Vancouver. "We really, really appreciated where we came from, and Dylan never takes it for granted for a second that he's at that level now."
That level is the best thrower Canada has ever produced. He claimed the country's first-ever world championship throwing medal, a silver last summer in Daegu, South Korea.
The Canadian record-holder missed a medal by less than a centimetre at the Games four years ago in Beijing, a result that has fuelled his motivation for London.
He wasn't able to linger long in disappointment however. His coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk — a sort of throwing folk hero who won a gold in hammer for the former Soviet Union at the 1972 Olympics — banged on his door at the athletes village at 6 a.m. the next morning for training.
"We have a strict program, we have to train," Armstrong said.
The fact the Canadian was out on the practice circle hours after his event in Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium when several of his competitors had to have been nursing hangovers was of little surprise to those who know him.
"His work ethic is incredible," said Derek Evely, Armstrong's former longtime coach.
Evely, who's now a coach with UK Athletics, said Armstrong obviously has the physical talent, but it's his commitment to hard work that sets him apart.
"He's quite the physical specimen. But there's lots of specimens out there at that level," Evely said.
"This is a kid who from 14 to 25 years old, when I coached him, never missed a single workout. I can never remember Dylan missing a workout or even being late for a workout. It's absolutely phenomenal, a pretty rare quality. It's unbelievable."
This season, Armstrong has battled back from an elbow injury that cost him a spot in the final at the world indoor championships in March to claim his seventh Canadian title last month.
He says he'll need to throw at least 22 metres to win a medal in London — his Canadian record is 22.21 — and that gold is anyone's to grab. His toughest competition will come from the American trio of Reese Hoffa, Christian Cantwell and Ryan Whiting, plus Poland's Tomasz Majewski and David Storl of Germany.
"(The field) is very deep, any one of us can win on that day, anybody's capable," said Armstrong.
While Armstrong is all-business in his final preparations for London, Reed says his friend, who was his best man at his wedding, is a fun-loving person and a devious practical joker. Reed's been the subject of a few of them.
"He's a very very very funny guy, really easy-going, super chill," Reed said.
Reed tells the story of the day Armstrong arrived to live with him in his Victoria apartment, a quiet seaside building of mostly older residents.
"I told him 'You've got to be quiet, I'm paying cheap rent, I don't want to screw this up.' I also said to him, 'The one thing you can't do is feed the seagulls.'"
Reed woke the next morning to the squawks of hundreds of hungry seagulls outside his window.
"He'd downloaded the seagull mating call and had strapped the speakers to the balcony," Reed said, laughing. "So he was blasting the seagull mating call and had loaves of bread tied onto the balcony. I'm not kidding, there were probably 300 seagulls. . ."
Practical jokes aside, Reed said he's seen Armstrong mature immensely in the four years since Beijing. He feels his friend will have no problem handling the spotlight that shines so brightly on Canada's Olympic medal hopes.
"He's not the same athlete," said Reed, who like Armstrong was fourth in Beijing. "He's just there, he's not a young developing athlete anymore, he's a very very high-performing, experienced athlete.
"There's a lot of things peaking for him, his mind is one of them. He's just ready, it's his time."
As for their financial misadventures, Reed's father-in-law Frank Quinn would eventually become one of Armstrong's biggest supporters, initially giving the thrower a job, and then providing funding for Armstrong's Olympic dreams.
"He just said, 'Go ahead, do what you've got to do,'" Armstrong said. "People like that in your life, they're very special. . . a guy that really believed in me, cared. Very very generous."
Reed is also a big believer in the spirit of generosity. Since retiring from track, the world silver medallist founded the Reed Athletics Fund to provide financial support to Canadian Olympic track and field hopefuls.